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Speech and Language Development

Children with a Cleft Lip

Children born with a cleft lip do not usually have any speech problems related to this.

Children with a Cleft Palate

Many children born with a cleft palate develop speech as any other child, without the help of a speech and language therapist.

Some children do have difficulty developing clear speech and this may be related to the disruption caused by the cleft. It is important that your child's progress is regularly checked so that therapy can be offered should it be needed. Speech and language difficulties can also occur that are not directly related to the cleft, just as they do in other children.

If your child has a cleft palate (with or without a cleft lip) their speech will be monitored for any effect on the way speech sounds are made (articulation) and any excess air escaping down the nose (nasality).

Sometimes, even after the operation to repair a cleft palate, it does not work exactly as it should. Your child may need speech therapy and sometimes another operation to try to improve the way the palate works.

Assessment and Monitoring

Early advice about developing speech and language will be offered at 3 - 6 months and post-palate repair at 9 - 12 months.

The first assessment of your child's speech and language will be at around 18 months of age. After this, your child's progress will be checked at cleft clinic appointments and sometimes through separate appointments with a member of the Speech and Language Therapist team. You can, of course, contact us at any time to discuss any questions or queries that you have.

Hearing is very important in the development of speech and language and this will be monitored by the Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) service. As with any child it is important to talk with your child from birth and to encourage sound making and sound games - as your child gets older these will become speech sounds and words.


If your child does need speech therapy this may be offered with a therapist at the cleft centre or with a therapist nearer to where you live, depending on what help your child needs. Help and advice is available when you need it.

All our speech and language therapists (SLTs) specialise in working with children born with cleft lip and/or palate. They aim to work in partnership with the SLT service in your local area to help with your child's speech and language development from an early age. Some children with ongoing feeding difficulties will benefit from a team approach, with help from a range of professionals.

Speech Development